Mac Jones

West Notes: M. Jones, Seahawks, Clinton-Dix

It has been looking increasingly likely that the 49ers will draft Alabama passer Mac Jones with the No. 3 overall pick of this year’s draft, and ESPN’s Adam Schefter said just yesterday that Jones would be the Niners’ pick. But Tony Pauline of Pro Football Network isn’t as convinced. On a recent PFN Draft Insiders podcast (link), Pauline said he is hearing that whether San Francisco goes with Jones or one of Justin Fields or Trey Lance is a 50-50 proposition.

Of course, this time of year is notorious for false leaks and misinformation, but the Niners are at least doing their due diligence on Fields. The Ohio State QB will hold a second pro day, and 49ers HC Kyle Shanahan and GM John Lynch are expected to attend.

Now for a few more West-related items:

  • The 49ers have hosted DL Ronald Blair on a visit, as ESPN’s Field Yates tweets. Blair, whom the Niners selected in the fifth round of the 2016 draft, was a useful piece of the team’s pass rush rotation during his first few years in the league, but he suffered a torn ACL in November 2019, and it was later revealed that the ensuing surgery was not successful. Though he re-upped with San Francisco on a one-year deal last March, he did not play in a single game in 2020.
  • Cornerback Quinton Dunbar recently signed with the Lions, but the Seahawks wanted to retain him, per Brady Henderson of ESPN.com (via Twitter). Seattle has lost both Dunbar and Shaquill Griffin in free agency, and though the club did bring Ahkello Witherspoon aboard, CB is still an area of need.
  • The Seahawks continue to seek offensive line depth. According to Mike Garafolo of the NFL Network, Seattle visited with guard Cody Wichmann today (Twitter link). Wichmann, a sixth-round pick of the Rams in 2015, has managed to land a couple of reserve/futures contracts and a spot on the Cowboys’ practice squad in 2018, but he hasn’t played in a regular season game since 2016. He has 18 career starts to his credit.
  • After the first few weeks of the new league year, the Raiders still have a glaring need at safety, but they don’t seem too worried about it. According to Vic Tafur of The Athletic, the only FA safety Vegas was in on early was Rayshawn Jenkins, who inked a four-year, $35MM deal with the Jaguars. Players like Kenny Vaccaro, Duron Harmon, and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix remain available, and the Raiders actually had Clinton-Dix in for a visit in March. Tafur suggests that the 28-year-old may have an offer in hand from Vegas and could be waiting for the market to pick back up before agreeing to a deal.

49ers Likely To Draft Mac Jones?

Prior to the 49ers’ trade that vaulted them from No. 12 to No. 3 in this year’s first round, Mac Jones was mocked by some to fall out of the top 10. Scouts Inc. rates the Alabama prospect 19th overall. But the noise surrounding the one-year Crimson Tide starter going in the top five has not quieted.

The 49ers are likely to select Jones with this year’s No. 3 pick, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com said during an ESPN radio interview Tuesday (Twitter link). When asked about the 49ers’ likely choice, the longtime NFL insider quickly indicated it will be Jones.

Shortly after the 49ers made the trade with the Dolphins, Kyle Shanahan said he was comfortable three of the top five quarterback prospects in this year’s draft being the team’s long-term answer. While the fifth-year 49ers HC added that he could reach a stronger comfort level with the other two, only three received his immediate approval stamp. It is obviously uncertain which quarterbacks fall into which category, but it should be assumed the 49ers reached a consensus before trading up.

The 49ers are considering Jones, and NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah and ESPN.com’s Todd McShay have mocked Tua Tagovailoa‘s Tuscaloosa successor to San Francisco. When Jones and Justin Fields were pro day participants on the same day last week, Shanahan and John Lynch trekked to Alabama to watch Jones. Fields and Trey Lance are considering staging second pro days to throw for Shanahan, Lynch and Co., but the Jones-to-San Francisco buzz has been building for several days now.

Although Jones is the least mobile of this year’s top QB prospects, he piloted another dominant Alabama team to an unbeaten season and a national championship. The 6-foot-2, 217-pound quarterback threw 41 touchdown passes, compared to four interceptions, and averaged 11.2 yards per attempt. He received the same advantages Tagovailoa did, in throwing to multiple first-round receiver talents. Both those wideouts — DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle — said they preferred Jones to Tua.

Shanahan and Lynch insisted Jimmy Garoppolo remains in the team’s plans for 2021, though the 49ers do not appear completely against trading their current starter. They are likelier to move on from Garoppolo in 2022, after giving Jones a year to develop in a backup role, Schefter adds. This reality unfolding would represent a remarkable rise for Jones, but as the likes of Joe Burrow, Baker Mayfield and Carson Wentz have shown in recent years, late QB value ascents are certainly not shocking.

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49ers Considering Mac Jones At No. 3

Alabama quarterback Mac Jones is squarely “in the conversation” for the 49ers at No. 3 overall, according to ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter (Twitter link). Presumably, that group also includes Trey Lance and/or Justin Fields, who are eager to showcase themselves in front of John Lynch & Co. 

Needless to say, Trevor Lawrence won’t be there for them. BYU’s Zach Wilson probably won’t be available either, now that the Jets have moved on from Sam Darnold. The Niners say they’d be comfortable with three quarterbacks in this year’s class, which is why they vaulted up from No. 12 in last week’s trade.

We looked at how our four years have gone and we looked at how we want the next four years to go and we looked at where we’re at in the draft and the options that are there,’ head coach Kyle Shanahan said earlier this month. “And that’s why sitting there looking at this stuff since January and going all the way through the process, we felt pretty strongly we were gonna be left at the altar sitting there at 12.”

Neither Shanahan nor Lynch attended Lynch’s pro day at North Dakota State. Instead, they went to Tuscaloosa to watch Jones throw. Jones was pegged as a mid-first round type just a few weeks ago but, apparently, the Niners are quite serious about making him the third overall pick.

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Justin Fields, Trey Lance Considering Holding Second Pro Days?

In moving up to No. 3 overall, the 49ers shook up the draft late last month. They revealed the move was for a quarterback, and Kyle Shanahan added that he is already comfortable with three passers in this draft. The fifth-year San Francisco HC added that he could get there with the other two top QB prospects as well.

It is not known which members of this draft’s quarterback quintet fall into which category, but two prospects are considering adjusting their offseason itineraries as a result of the 49ers’ trade. Justin Fields and Trey Lance are considering staging second pro days in order to throw in front of top 49ers brass, Albert Breer of SI.com notes.

Neither Shanahan nor 49ers GM John Lynch attended North Dakota State’s pro day March 12, with the team’s top two power brokers not wanting to tip their hands ahead of the trade. Ohio State’s pro day occurred on Tuesday, overlapping with Alabama’s second pro day. Shanahan and Lynch opted to trek to Tuscaloosa for Mac Jones‘ workout, though it was expected Shanahan would meet with Fields at some point as well. Shanahan confirmed Jones is under consideration for the No. 3 pick, per NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport (video link).

With the COVID-19 pandemic nixing private workouts for a second straight year, any additional throwing sessions would need to be on campus and would be open for all teams to attend. It would certainly be interesting if Fields and Lance conducting additional pro days with the purpose of auditioning for one franchise, but the Jaguars and Jets have been heavily connected to Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson. The 49ers’ direction is less certain, though Jones has recently been linked by multiple experts to go third overall. ESPN.com’s Todd McShay now mocks Jones to the 49ers. Prior to the trade, Mel Kiper Jr. had Jones falling to No. 15.

Should the 49ers draft Jones, Fields and Lance could fall out of the top five. But neither should be expected to drop too far, with several teams — both in and out of the top 10 — in need of a hopeful franchise quarterback.

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49ers Monitored Deshaun Watson

Prior to swinging a deal for the No. 3 overall pick in this year’s draft — which they have admitted they will use on a quarterback — the 49ers monitored Deshaun Watson‘s availability, as Nick Wagoner of ESPN.com writes. That’s not terribly surprising, as the Niners were reportedly high on Watson’s list of preferred destinations, and San Francisco has been connected in some way or another to many of the quarterbacks that were on the trade and free agent markets this offseason.

Ultimately, after the club managed to retain key players like left tackle Trent Williams and fullback Kyle Juszczyk, and after Watson’s off-field situation made a trade for him infeasible, GM John Lynch approached ownership with the proposal to acquire the No. 3 pick from Miami. Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan believe the roster is championship-ready, and while they feel they can win with Jimmy Garoppolo under center — after all, the Garoppolo-led 49ers were in the Super Bowl about 14 months ago — they knew they needed a backup plan given Jimmy G’s injury history. And, with the 2022 class of collegiate QBs looking like an uninspiring group at the moment, San Francisco decided the time was right to make a bold move to secure a top prospect who would represent a Garoppolo fallback plan this year and who has a real chance of becoming a top-flight passer down the line.

The fact that the club was looking at players like Joe Flacco and Andy Dalton even after they had initiated talks to make a move up the draft board underscores the fact that the team is not comfortable with Garoppolo on a long-term basis and was considering trading him and replacing him with a different veteran that could have served as a bridge to a younger passer. Of course, a trade for Watson would have obviated the need for a rookie signal-caller, but even if Watson weren’t facing legal issues, there would have been stiff competition for his services, if the Texans had chosen to move him at all. While a player like Trey Lance, Justin Fields, or Mac Jones are hardly the sure thing that Watson is, we know that Shanahan prides himself on his ability to get the most out of his quarterbacks.

Garoppolo, meanwhile, was understandably unhappy when he learned that the team was drafting his replacement, and it sounds as if Shanahan made no bones about the fact that 2021 is looking like Garoppolo’s last year in San Francisco. As Wagoner writes, Shanahan said Garoppolo ultimately understood the plan to bring him back for “one more go” and “rehabilitate his value” (presumably for a trade in 2022).

“I’m sure Jimmy was a little pissed off from it, just like I would be, too,” Shanahan said. “The more mad Jimmy gets, usually the better he gets. (If) Jimmy just gets madder and stays healthy, this is going to be a good thing for Jimmy, too, which could be a great problem for the 49ers.”

As for who the 49ers might take at No. 3? Jones is a highly accurate passer, especially on intermediate throws, and boasts a terrific deep ball. In other words, he checks a lot of Shanahan’s boxes. He is also said to have high-level football IQ and excellent leadership abilities, and while many pundits have suggested his ceiling is lower than that of Lance or Fields, ESPN’s Adam Schefter cites one NFC GM who says teams have Jones graded much higher than the media does (via Dalton Johnson of NBC Sports Bay Area). As such, Schefter says he would not be surprised if the 49ers pull the trigger on Jones.

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Shanahan: 49ers Comfortable With 3 Quarterbacks In Draft

The 49ers spent the past three weeks trying to trade up in the draft, finally securing a deal with the Dolphins to climb to No. 3 overall. Kyle Shanahan addressed the trade, confirming it was indeed to draft a quarterback.

We looked at how our four years have gone and we looked at how we want the next four years to go and we looked at where we’re at in the draft and the options that are there,’ Shanahan said, via NFL.com. “And that’s why sitting there looking at this stuff since January and going all the way through the process, we felt pretty strongly we were gonna be left at the altar sitting there at 12.”

This move comes despite the Jets’ plans not being fully known. While Urban Meyer essentially confirmed the Jaguars will draft Trevor Lawrence first overall, the Jets will either trade the pick or trade Sam Darnold. Increased noise on option B, with the Jets then taking BYU’s Zach Wilson, has emerged in recent days.

[RELATED: Who will 49ers draft at No. 3 overall?]

The 49ers appear to be fine with selecting the third quarterback in this draft. Shanahan said the team is comfortable with three of the quarterback prospects being the long-term answer, adding that the Nos. 4 and 5 options would also have potential to elevate the team (Twitter link via ESPN.com’s Nick Wagoner). Shanahan expects the draft’s top five QBs to be drafted earlier than most currently anticipate. No draft has begun with four straight passers being chosen, but that possibility is live this year. Picking in the top five for the first time since they drafted Matt Ryan, the Falcons have a chance to select the 35-year-old’s heir apparent at No. 4.

With Lawrence and Wilson expected to be gone by the time the 49ers pick, they are likely going to draft either Justin Fields, Trey Lance or Mac Jones. Interestingly, Jones and Fields’ pro days are both Tuesday. Shanahan and John Lynch will attend Jones’, with the 49ers sending other staffers to Fields’, Peter King of NBC Sports notes. Assistant GM Adam Peters will be in Columbus for Fields’ pro day, per Wagoner, who adds that Shanahan plans to meet with the ex-Buckeyes standout at some point. Shanahan and Lynch did not attend Wilson’s or Lance’s, with the 49ers not wanting to arouse suspicion of their plans (Twitter link via SI.com’s Albert Breer). Shanahan also plans to meet with Lance.

While Shanahan said anyone on the 49ers could be traded, the team thus far wants to keep Jimmy Garoppolo around this season. The 49ers have become the latest team to mention the Chiefs’ Alex Smith-to-Patrick Mahomes transition. Shanahan said it will be difficult for the 49ers to find a quarterback better equipped to lead the team to wins this season, per Wagoner (on Twitter).

We went to ownership and said, ‘Hey, things are looking good. We’d like to make this move, but we also don’t want to say goodbye to Jimmy,” Lynch said. “We’ve shown we can get to a Super Bowl with him. We can play at a high level and we don’t think those two things have to be mutually exclusive.”

Two years remain on Garoppolo’s contract. He is set to count $26.4MM against San Francisco’s cap this season. The 49ers could trade their incumbent starter and incur less than $3MM in dead money. The Patriots, who sent Garoppolo to the 49ers in 2017, may be interested.

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Poll: Who Will 49ers Draft At No. 3?

Trevor Lawrence has been expected to lead off the draft for a while now, while the Jets’ connection to BYU’s Zach Wilson continues to gain steam. Although the Jets are not a lock to move on from Sam Darnold and take Wilson, they appear to be on the doorstep of such a consensus. The draft suspense may, then, begin with the 49ers.

Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch have each endorsed Jimmy Garoppolo as the planned 2021 starter, and the 49ers are sending out signals they do not expect to trade their incumbent passer. But the team parted with tremendous future draft capital to climb nine spots to No. 3 overall. The 49ers should be widely expected to draft a quarterback in the first round for the first time since they chose Alex Smith first overall in 2005. Which one will they select?

Only two drafts — 1971 and 1999 — have begun with three consecutive teams taking quarterbacks. With the Falcons connected to choosing a Matt Ryan heir apparent, this draft could be the first to start with four straight QBs. Should Lawrence and Wilson head to the Jaguars and Jets, the 49ers will have their pick of seemingly Justin Fields, Trey Lance or Mac Jones. With a Garoppolo trade seemingly now in play, one of these three could have the keys to the San Francisco’s offense as soon as this coming season.

Fields has resided on this tier the longest, being the 1B option to Lawrence going into the 2020 season. Dwayne Haskins‘ Ohio State successor did not do too much to ding his stock, even though multiple choppy performances did occur this past season. Fields boasted a 41-3 TD-INT ratio in 2019 and dominated in the Buckeyes’ rout of Clemson in the College Football Playoff this past season. That said, Hall of Fame scout Gil Brandt does not expect the 49ers to go with Fields, whom some teams have well outside the top 10 on their respective boards.

Fields’ final college QB opponent, Jones has received glowing endorsements from soon-to-be first-round picks DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle. The ex-Crimson Tide pass catchers preferred Jones to the Dolphins’ Tua Tagovailoa, and the former completed a stunning 77% of his passes, averaged 11.2 yards per attempt and finished a 13-game season with 41 touchdown passes. Scouts Inc., however, has the less mobile Jones well below Fields and Lance, slotting the one-year Alabama starter 28th overall.

Scouts Inc. rates Lance as this draft’s third-best QB prospect, placing him 12th (to Fields’ 13th position). The North Dakota State prodigy profiles as one of the strangest prospects to ever land on the top-10 radar. Division I-FCS players typically do not enter drafts early; Lance put his name in this year’s draft after one full season as the Bison’s starter. While that season featured eye-popping production (28 TD passes, no INTs, 1,100 rushing yards) and resulted in North Dakota State’s latest title, a team using a top-five pick on an FCS prospect with one season of experience and no Scouting Combine to further judge him would be a historic move.

Where will the 49ers go at No. 3? How will they proceed with Garoppolo and his $26.4MM cap number? Vote in PFR’s latest poll (link for app users) and weigh in with your thoughts in the comments section.

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Latest On Patriots’ QB Outlook

We heard at the beginning of January that the Patriots and quarterback Cam Newton were unlikely to reunite in 2021, but a report from earlier this week suggested that the the door is not closed on a Newton return to Foxborough next season. And multiple sources tell Ben Volin of the Boston Globe that they would not be surprised to see the Pats re-sign the 2015 league MVP.

After all, HC Bill Belichick reportedly loved coaching Newton, and Volin hears that even after the 2020 campaign, Belichick has raved about the effort that Newton put forth last season. He is concerned about Newton’s arm strength — which is understandable given the 31-year-old’s disappointing passing performance during his first season with New England — but he appears open to continuing the relationship just the same. Newton, meanwhile, has been similarly candid about how much he enjoyed playing for the Pats, so if the two sides can agree to another inexpensive contract, a re-up could be in the cards.

Of course, the club has also had conversations about every quarterback in the league that could be available via trade, and the expectation remains that the Pats will select a QB in the early rounds of this year’s draft (perhaps with their No. 15 overall selection). So if Newton comes back, it obviously won’t be as anything more than a bridge option to a younger passer, and Mike Reiss of ESPN.com suggests that the team could even re-sign Newton and pair him with another veteran.

If New England goes that route, one obvious option would be to re-sign longtime Patriot Brian Hoyer, as Volin notes. Volin also believes that Mitchell Trubisky could be on the Pats’ radar, and at this point in their respective careers, Trubisky certainly appears to have a higher ceiling than Newton. Some have connected the dots between New England and former Belichick draftee Jacoby Brissett, but Volin sees a Brissett signing as unlikely since he did not “click” with Belichick and OC Josh McDaniels before he was dealt to the Colts in 2017. Assuming the Patriots do end up adding two QBs this offseason, Jarrett Stidham‘s roster status will be very much in doubt.

One collegiate signal-caller that has been routinely mocked to the Patriots is Alabama QB Mac Jones. As Reiss notes in the piece linked above, former New England OC Charlie Weis was effusive in his praise of Jones, and Weis sees him as a perfect fit in the Pats’ offense. Though he is not as athletic as some of the other passers in this year’s class, Jones is more than capable of moving around in the pocket and can make accurate throws to every part of the field.

If the Pats really want Jones, though, they may have to trade up from the No. 15 pick. His stock is rising, and ESPN draftniks Mel Kiper, Jr. and Todd McShay both believe he will be off the board by the time New England is on the clock.

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Alabama’s Patrick Surtain II, Jaylen Waddle, Mac Jones To Enter Draft

Days after a lopsided national championship victory, Alabama will see several of its starters make the expected jump to the NFL. Wide receiver Jaylen Waddle, cornerback Patrick Surtain II, quarterback Mac Jones and defensive tackle Christian Barmore announced Thursday they will enter the 2021 draft.

All four are projected first-round picks, according to ESPN.com’s Todd McShay. Surtain, Jones and Waddle will respectively forgo their senior seasons, while Barmore will leave two Crimson Tide years on the table. Surtain and Waddle have appeared in first-round mocks for a while now; it is not out of the question both join Heisman winner DeVonta Smith as top-10 picks.

Waddle will land alongside Smith and LSU opt-out Ja’Marr Chase atop the receiver prospects in what is expected to be another deep wideout class. While Waddle saw an ankle fracture interrupt his final Alabama season, he suited up against Ohio State — albeit at far less than 100% — and should be expected to go off the board fairly early in the draft. Smith and Waddle, who averaged 21.1 yards per catch this season, will follow ex-Crimson Tide teammates Henry Ruggs and Jerry Jeudy as first-round prospects. Waddle is not certain to be ready for the Combine or pre-draft workouts, however.

An All-American as a junior, Surtain finished with a career-high nine passes defensed this season. He will follow his father, Patrick Surtain, into the pros. The elder Surtain was a longtime NFL corner who became a Dolphins second-round pick in 1998. McShay has the younger Surtain and Barmore going off the board at 10th and 27th overall, respectively. The latter recorded eight sacks this season.

At Alabama during Jalen Hurts and Tua Tagovailoa‘s starting tenures, Jones took over late last season after Tagovailoa’s hip injury. Despite the COVID-19-altered season limiting Alabama to 13 games total, Jones set a program record with 4,500 passing yards and finished with a 77% completion rate and a 41-4 TD-INT ratio. He will join Trevor Lawrence, North Dakota State’s Trey Lance, BYU’s Zach Wilson and (likely) Ohio State’s Justin Fields as surefire Round 1 prospects.

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